Ahoy, ahoy!

I can hardly believe it is February already.  It feels like the Arctic out there, with blustery snowy days and windchill of -40C.  Brrrrrr!  I’m happy to sit inside the library with a hot cup of tea and blog while the drifts pile up outside…

First Nations performance art is an interesting topic because too often, First Nations performance is used to demonstrate Canadian culture to the world.  The type of performance I’m talking about is traditional performance, that is, traditional dances and songs.  Often, these performances are done in the traditional dress of a particular First Nations group.  At the Vancouver 2010 Olympic opening ceremonies, every First Nations group in Canada was invited to dance and perform to celebrate the beginning of the games.

This ceremony celebrated the histories of the First Nations peoples, to be sure, but did little to recognize or acknowledge present day First Nations people.  These traditional dances originated with the express purpose of passing knowledge through the generations.  They ensured that the preservation of the legends and customs of their people are passed on.  The First Nations writer, Thomas King, often speaks about how knowledge is transferred from one person to another.  In his mind, becoming entertainment for others is what you do when you have nothing left to offer, when nothing else has worked in order to have your voice heard.  The very fact that contemporary First Nations performance exists demonstrates, to me, that becoming entertainment in this sense has been like a cry for help.  These new stories that are being manifested and performed through these performances are the ones that the next generation of First Nations are going to have to worry about.  The sale of their traditional lands, the contamination of their ancestral rivers and the general dissipation of their language and culture is what is happening, and these performances urge a change.

They are not only demonstrations that exist within the present, they look forward to the future.  These performances about the current plights of First Nations people provide us with information about what needs to be addressed.  Sometimes, when all you have left to do is entertain, the survival of your culture could very well depend on your performance.

That’s all!